heroin

Governor Lincoln Chafee has signed a bill into law requiring practitioners to register with the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.

Aaron Read / RIPR

A state senate committee has recommended passage of two bills aimed at curbing prescription drug and heroin abuse.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

State leaders have announced some new steps in the fight against prescription painkiller and heroin addiction. The news accompanies the release of the latest grim numbers of drug overdose deaths.  

Rhode Island health department head Michael Fine told a standing-room-only crowd at the Anchor Community Recovery Center in Pawtucket that 85 people have died since January from suspected drug overdoses, mostly heroin. Hundreds more have overdosed but survived, he said, thanks to an antidote called Narcan, which first responders carry.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The rising number of Rhode Islanders struggling with an addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin has brought an increase in babies born addicted to these substances. And Women & Infants Hospital is treating a growing number of them.

Garry Bliss / The Providence Center

We had a full house at the Providence Athenaeum last week. If you weren't able to join us, not to worry. You can listen to the full program right here.

Rhode Island Public Radio, in concert with the lovely Providence Athenaeum, hosted a stellar group of panelists for this one hour radio show taped in front of a live audience. Guests included a recovering addict and overdose survivor, an addiction medicine and infectious disease specialist, a drug abuse epidemiologist, a Warwick police captain trained in mental health first aid, and an addiction treatment specialist.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island’s health department has issued new emergency regulations designed to make it easier to access a drug called naloxone, used to reverse drug overdoses. The new rules come in response to a spike in deaths from heroin and prescription painkiller overdoses.

If you weren't able to join us last night at the Providence Athenaeum for Policy & Pinot - "Killer Drugs: Tackling Opioid Addiction and Overdose in Rhode Island" - not to worry. We recorded the program and will broadcast it Sunday, March 16 at 6 pm here on Rhode Island Public Radio. But we're sorry we missed you!

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More about last night's Policy & Pinot at the Providence Athenaeum

The Senate Health and Human Services committee will be considering a suite of proposed bills that aim to tackle the state's prescription painkiller and heroin addiction and overdose crisis.

The committee's chair, Senator Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), plans to introduce several of those bills, including:

Tomorrow night! Join Rhode Island Public Radio for Policy & Pinot, our ongoing public discussion series held in conjunction with the Providence Athenaeum.

When: Tuesday, March 11, 2014. Reception at 5:30 PM, program begins shortly after.

Where: The Providence Athenaeum, 251 Benefit Street, Providence, RI. Some street parking available.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A record number of Rhode Islanders have died from an opioid overdose. In this special report on the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose, we examine how our problem with prescription painkillers and heroin addiction and overdose got so bad, what it's like to respond to this crisis on the front lines, and how communities, and addicts, can recover.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

In the first 9 weeks of this year, 55 Rhode Islanders have died from apparent drug overdoses. Overdose has been the number one cause of accidental death in Rhode Island since 2008, but the problem has been drawing more attention in recent days because of the surprising number of deaths this year alone. Rhode Island Public Radio health care reporter Kristin Gourlay has been at work on a documentary about drug overdose and addiction since well before the flood of recent headlines.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island’s department of health director doctor Michael Fine plans to brief state lawmakers Wednesday on the state of the state’s health.

Fine will update lawmakers on the state’s progress on certain health indicators. Smoking rates are down to about 17 percent. New cases of HIV are falling. But since his last briefing for the General Assembly, Fine said, the needle hasn’t moved in the right direction on another major health challenge – drug addiction and overdose.

“Drug overdose death is what’s keeping us up at night. That’s our single biggest slippage," said Fine.

Rhode Island's health department director says 45 Rhode Islanders have died from overdoses so far this year. Concerns are growing that a dangerous combination of heroin and Fentanyl is continuing to kill unsuspecting users. The state medical examiner is still investigating, but Fentanyl is suspected in many of these deaths. It's a powerful painkiller, up to 80 times more powerful than heroin. In combination it can kill even habitual users quickly. There's an antidote for overdoses from opioids like heroin and other painkillers. It's called Narcan.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

State health authorities say 38 Rhode Islanders have died from suspected illicit IV drug overdoses so far this year, possibly from drugs that may have been laced with a powerful substance called fentanyl. That's despite public warnings the drugs might be tainted.

Drug dealers may be adding synthetic fentanyl to heroin to boost potency or stretch the supply to make more money. But what their customers may not know is that this particular compound is many times more potent than heroin and can kill even habitual IV drug users the first time they take it.

Has heroin abuse reached epidemic proportions? What about painkiller abuse? Or are we just hearing more about it?

The academic jury is still out on this, as far as I can tell. Of course, it doesn't really matter what you call it if you've lost a loved one to heroin overdose.

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